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We are in the midst of the great autonomous car race. Within the past few years, automakers have been making rapid strides toward improving driverless capabilities. They’ve also been making big promises to deploy fully autonomous vehicles (no steering wheels, no pedals) by deadlines ranging from 2019 to 2021.

The autonomy level for driverless cars is ranked on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being a low form of driver assistance — such as hands-free parallel parking — and 5 being full automation requiring no driver intervention or monitoring at all. Most 2018 model cars have some level of automation, but no automaker has yet to reach level 5. Every automaker wants to be the first to do so, which means industry competition is redlining.

This also means automakers and autonomous driving software companies are hiring at rapid rates in order to be the first to cross the finish line. Autonomous driving jobs posted to jumped 27 percent year over year in January 2018. At the close of Q2 2018, autonomous driving jobs increased 250 percent compared to Q2 2017 because of a massive hiring spree that started at the beginning of the year.

Top job titles

It’s not surprising that engineers are in high demand. But what’s unique here is the high degree of specialization within the engineering discipline, especially when it comes to perception technology such as light imaging, detection and ranging (LIDAR).

Of course, as automakers and software companies continue to innovate in the field, they need someone to sell their products. That’s why strategic account managers are nearly as coveted as engineers. And although not required, most of the job postings for this role state a bachelor’s degree is preferred.

• Perception software engineer

• Strategic account manager

• Field service technician

• Industrial engineer

• Customer success field representative

• Field autonomy engineer

• Functional safety engineer

• Autonomous navigation software engineer

• Robotics engineer

• Electrical engineer

Cities with the jobs

It may come as no surprise to see Silicon Valley well-represented here. But what is Pittsburgh doing in the top spot? It turns out that Pittsburgh is indeed the epicenter of autonomous driving innovation.

Sebastian Thrun and Chris Urmson, the minds behind Google’s self-driving car project, were scientists working in the Robotic Learning Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The Steel City is also home to Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, which is the engineering and design team leading the way in creating and testing autonomous Ubers.

• Pittsburgh

• Detroit

• San Francisco

• San Jose, California

• Ann Arbor, Michigan

PHOTO CAPTIONS: The Waymo Firefly is a fully self-driving car that uses technology developed in Google labs. [Waymo]

An Uber self-driving car does a test drive around
San Francisco. [Uber Advanced Technologies Group]